But it does come with some challenges.
Some of the photos are bent and torn; some are stained and discoloured; on some the images have faded so badly that the original shades can only be guessed at and even content can be hard to make out. Sometimes the colours on the old photopaper run and puddle into uneven patches leaving images covered with dark spots and blotches. I have found many photos that were printed so small they almost resemble postage stamps. The images are often not square; some of them have writing on their backs that has begun to leak through the image on the front. Occasionally the photos have been mounted on cardboard or glued into albums where the glue or chemicals damage the pictures, and having to scan pictures in heavy, bulky albums can be troublesome too.
I'm glad I have Photoshop.
Using Photoshop, I have been able to scan the small photos at a very high resolution thereby allowing me to enlarge them to a size where I can identify details of the subject without pixelating the image. I've been pleasantly surprised by some of the useful and enlightening images I have found this way.
Photoshop also allows me to restore the damaged and faded images.
Below is a before and after of a picture taken of my maternal grandmother in 1919 when she was 13 years old. The picture was mounted on stiff cardboard and was only lightly damaged; a little faded, some scratches and other little defects, and the edges were not even and square.
Using the magic of Photoshop and several hours of time I now have a photo that, while not perfect, is certainly a much improved portrait of my teenaged grandmother.
Today, I found a very faded picture in another album; an album that I put together of photos that I had collected and scavenged when I was in Germany in 1984. I have no idea who the woman in the photo is, but I'm hoping that my mother might be able to recognize the person; if not I'll paste the image into a letter and send it to my aunt (my father's youngest sister). Maybe she can identify this mystery person.
But first of all, I have do do some restoration work. It'll be a much bigger challenge than the above photo.
Check it out; it's small, discoloured, and when I enlarged it I found it to be very spotted and blotchy.
This will keep me busy for a while.
“So-called art restoration is at least as tricky as brain surgery.
Most pictures expire under scalpel and sponge.”
~~~ Alexander Eliot